Stat-Feast: Chefs' Anonymous Questions for Their Peers

A look at the numbers behind chefs' questions for each other.
Stat-Feast: Chefs' Anonymous Questions for Their Peers
Arthur Bovino

Think of a question for a chef. It's likely it has already been asked. What’s your favorite junk food? What food do you crave? What’s your favorite restaurant? There’s no harm in these questions. And you can learn interesting things from some answers. But do they really add to a discussion about food? As Food & Wine Magazine’s Dana Cowin noted, “Chefs get asked the same questions over and over. So I try to avoid any question you know they've been asked a million times before, like what's your guilty pleasure.”

While attending food events during the past two years, there was one question posed to chefs that bucked the hit-each-event-tasting-station routine: “If there is any one question you could ask your peers anonymously, what would it be?"

We asked that of almost 50 well-known chefs, and they answered, some with more candor than others. Given the promise of anonymity, we won’t say who said what, but considering the questions were were asked of anyone who has attended the New York City and South Beach Wine & Food festivals during the last two years, there were big names and celebrities. Read the full story, or check out the questions below.

 

6 Why Did You Become a Chef/What Is Your Motivation
"Why do they do what they do?"
"What brought them to the point of becoming a chef?"
"What makes you happy?"
"Why the f@#k are you doing this? Are you sure you want to?"
"What excites you? What are you doing that drives you to cook?"
"What do you have the most fun making?"

6 Kitchen/Staff/Operational Questions
"Labor/food costs? How much do you mark up wine by the glass?"
"What are the secrets to managing the perfect business?"
"How do you keep your employees happy?"
"Not that we have a vermin problem, but what do you do if you see a rat or a mouse scurrying across the floor, an uninvited guest out in the open? At some point, this is New York."
"How in their minds are they creating better future chefs?"
"What’s the best tool in your kitchen?"

5 Events
"How do you function after an event?"
"What’s the ideal recipe to do at events?"
"How do they decide what they’re going to do at each venue?"
"Why do you think you were chosen to attend this event?"
"How many glasses of wine have you had today?"

4 Workload
"I’d probably ask, how do you do what you do?"
"Do you work as much as I do?"
"Ask them how they do it?"
"At what point do you start drinking?"

3 Sex/Friends/Service
"Knowing me, I’d probably ask them who they’re sleeping with?"
"Would you ever send something back in a friend's restaurant?"
"How did your service go?"

3 Flippant/Angst
"What the f@#k?"
"What were you thinking? That’s not for everybody but for some of them."
"How’s my balls?"

3 Inspiration/Sourcing
"How do you get inspiration for new items?"
"How many components of this dish did you steal from someone else?"
"Do you consider yourself original?"

2 Day Off
"What do you do on your day off?"
"What do you do in your free time?"

2 Non-Specific/Stumped
"Depends on the chef. It’s not so much about the question as the chef you’re asking a question of."
"That’s a tough one. Write that down. That’s it."

2 Recipes
"A recipe. Like a chocolate cake. I’d get their recipes. What are their secrets?"
"How do you make macarons?"

2 Feet
"What kind of shoes do you wear?"
"Where do you get your foot massages from?"

2 Clothes/Shoes
"What kind of shoes do you wear?"
“I’d ask Gordon Ramsay where he gets those jackets he wears — they seem to fit him so well.”

1 Cooking At Home
"Do you cook at home?"              

1 Where to Eat?
"What’s the new cool place in town?"

1 The Future
"What are you doing in life next? Because when you’re 45 or 50 will you still be doing this?
1 Dream Meal
"If you could get a free ticket and free meal to anywhere in the world where would you go?"

1 Who Is the Best Chef?
"Who do you think is the best chef?"

1 New York
"What is it that we love about New York?"

 

Chefs' Answers to Their Own Questions For Their Peers

Chef's Question: "How do you get inspiration for new items?
Chef's Answer: "I’m ingredient driven."

Chef's Question: "Do you cook at home? What do you do on your day off?
Chef's Answer: "I hang out with my wife, and make music. I’m into thrash and hip-hop."

Chef's Question: "What kind of shoes do you wear?"
Chef's Answer: "Right now, I’m wearing Birkenstocks. Everybody swears by their shoes."

Chef's Question: "Where do you get your foot massages from?
Chef's Answer: "On Mott between Broome and Grand."

Chef's Question: "What do you have the most fun making?”
Chef's Answer: “Silly little garnishes, spirals and chocolate cigarettes. All those little things that go on top that make things look pretty.”

Chef's Question: "How many components of this dish did you steal from someone else?"
Chef's Answer: "The answer is all of them."

Chef's Question: "What’s the ideal recipe to do at events?"
Chef's Answer: "You’re looking at it."

Chef's Question: "What’s the new cool place in town?"
Chef's Answer: "DBGB Kitchen & Bar."

Chef's Question: "How do they decide what they’re going to do at each venue?"
Chef's Answer: "I eat out, and I look at cookbooks, and I go on what I’m craving."

Chef's Question: "What are the secrets to managing the perfect business? How do you keep your employees happy?"
Chef's Answer: "I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking. I try to figure it out everyday."

Chef's Question: "What are you doing in life next? Because when you’re 45 or 50 will you still be doing this?"
Chef's Answer: "I don’t have any answers. I would say I will give you a call."

Chef's Question: "Not that we have a vermin problem, but what do you do if you see a rat or a mouse scurrying across the floor, an uninvited guest out in the open? At some point, this is New York."
Chef's Answer: "I could see us being really extreme and shutting the door. A mouse out in the daytime would be death because they’re nocturnal. If you see one in the daytime that means there are so many that they are pushing each other out of the hole."

Chef's Question: "Why do they do what they do? What brought them to the point of becoming a chef?"
Chef's Answer: "Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by food. I baked with my mother and grandmother. I played chef as a kid. I made my three sisters eat whatever crap I made."

Chef's Question: "What the f@#k?"
Chef's Answer: "Why can I get a burger at Five Napkin for $5 that’s just as good as a burger I get at a two- or four-star restaurant for $48? Same meat, same bun, just maybe a different atmosphere."

Chef's Question: "What were you thinking? That’s not for everybody but for some of them."
Chef's Answer: "Happiness."

Chef's Question: "How in their mind they create better future chefs?"
Chef's Answer: "I have to work with each one of them individually. I have to make time with each of them individually. You see these guys? These guys have been up since 7 a.m. By the end of the day, they’ll have been up for 23 hours. That’s dedication. That’s what it’s all about."

Chef's Question: "Do you consider yourself original?"
Chef's Answer: "I’ve found inspiration in other chefs, but I always try to give them credit. I think it’s important to give credit. It’s important to build on it."

Chef's Question: "What do you do in your free time?"
Chef's Answer: "I don’t have any free time — I have two kids."

Chef's Question: "Why do they do what they do?”
Chef's Answer: “Because I love it. I’m passionate about food and I love eating and I think that’s what drives me to be who I am.”

Chef's Question: "If you could get a free ticket and free meal to anywhere in the world, where would you go?"
Chef's Answer: "El Bulli or I’d say, find a sushi bar in Tokyo, a really good sushi bar."

Chef's Question: "Who do you think is the best chef?"
Chef's Answer: "That’s a tough question. My mom swears it’s me."

Chef's Question: "What is it that we love about New York?"
Chef's Answer: "It pushes us to do the extra mile, to give a little more and to do a better job."

Chef's Question: "Ask them how they do it."
Chef's Answer: "I just kind of wing it myself."

Chef's Question: "What’s the best tool in your kitchen?"
Chef's Answer: "Your chefs. Your staff."